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Newsom to succeed Brown in San Francisco

Gavin Newsom (right) and Matt Gonzalez
Gavin Newsom (right) and Matt Gonzalez

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San Francisco (California)
Green Party

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- San Francisco voters chose Democrat Gavin Newsom as their city's mayor, replacing California political legend, Mayor Willie Brown.

In a city famous for its liberal politics, Newsom -- who is for abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control, rent control and against the death penalty -- was challenged not from the right, but from the left, by Matt Gonzalez, a member of the Green Party, who wants to let non-citizens vote in school board elections and harness tidal energy.

According to the San Francisco's Election Division, Newsom received 53 percent of the vote while Gonzalez grabbed 47 percent.

Gonzalez conceded defeat late Tuesday, but said the vote was a victory for his Green Party.

"This is a city with three percent Greens and look what we went and did, we had 47 or 48 percent of the electorate voting for a Green candidate," he said.

If Gonzalez had won, it would have marked the biggest municipal victory ever for the Greens.

To prevent that from happening, a parade of high-profile Democrats campaigned for Newsom, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, herself a former San Francisco mayor, and former President Bill Clinton, who was in the city Monday night.

Newsom, 36, is a millionaire businessman who serves on the city's Board of Supervisors. He had the backing of Brown and the city's Democratic establishment. Gonzalez, 38, is a former public defender who switched to the Green Party in 2000 and won election as president of the Board of Supervisors.

One issue of contention between the two was Newsom's sponsorship of a ballot initiatives that would ban aggressive panhandling and end cash assistance to the homeless. Gonzalez had charged that those initiatives show he is too conservative and too closely tied to the business community.

Newsom will replace Brown, a colorful, popular political icon who ran for mayor in 1995 after term limits forced him from his long-time power base as speaker of the California Assembly in Sacramento. He was re-elected in 1999, but term limits prevent him from seeking a third term.

CNN Producer Chuck Afflerbach contributed to this report

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